By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
OFFICIAL Opposition Leader Philip "Brave" Davis said Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis' revelation of his administration's intention to become temporary joint owners of the Grand Lucayan Resort in Grand Bahama raised a lot of questions and lacked transparency.
Mr Davis last night questioned who the partners were in this new agreement, its terms and how long the arrangement was expected to last, among other things.
In his national address last week, the prime minister said his government is involved in negotiations with the owners of the assets of Grand Lucayan in the nation's second city and related assets for the joint ownership of those assets in partnership with a number of investors.
Dr Minnis said it was the government's intention to resuscitate and grow business to the Grand Lucayan as rapidly and as sustainably as possible, and thereafter sell its equity to one of the existing partners or other investors.
While Mr Davis said this was "the single, concrete, tangible" proposal from the prime minister in his first national address as leader of The Bahamas, the details offered were not sufficient.
"He sadly failed to deliver on the principle of transparency, on which he so heavily campaigned," Mr Davis said last night during a televised address.
"He mentioned, almost in passing, that the government will go into partnership over the ownership of the Grand Lucayan Resort in Grand Bahama, but his silence over any significant element of the arrangement raises a lot of questions.
"Who are the partners? What are the terms? How long will the arrangement last? What is the financial return to Bahamians? We look forward to a much more detailed account from the prime minister regarding this proposed partnership."
Last week, Dr Minnis said the government has no intention of remaining an owner of the hotel for any extended period of time. He said all signs point to the beginning of renovations at the resort within the next month with the facility being ready for business for the winter season.
Dr Minnis did not give specifics about the plan and it is unclear what amount of investment the government is willing to make in the resort.
The nation's leader said his administration has identified "a number of integrated travel and hospitality companies that can bring quality brands to Grand Bahama but also much needed air transportation".
Grand Bahama, whose economy has floundered for years, took a big hit after Hurricane Matthew devastated the island last year.
When contacted by The Tribune following this revelation by the prime minister last week, former Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) Chairman Gowon Bowe emphasised the government must have a clear entry and exit strategy for seeking to acquire the resort's assets even as he expressed concerns about its plan to do so.
He said: "Based on what I've been told about the cost of renovations required, if the government is prepared to inject that amount of money into it, that is a major investment and there must be a very clear exit and entry strategy.
"It shouldn't just be a reaction to the current circumstances on the island but should be methodical and well thought out.
"If the government goes in as co-investor, what are the terms? What equity stake are they taking? Will they recover their investment as a priority investor if they sell their stake?"
"When we look at history in terms of the Bahamas Hotel Corporation and properties they purchased back in the day, the Nassau Beach, the Wyndham, they didn't turn out to be success stories because the unfortunate element is government owned assets are perceived to be able to lose money without consequence. When you look at running hotels, it is a costly venture and one that requires having a finger on the pulse," Mr Bowe continued.